Solidarity Committee Delivers Ultimatum

Groups Seeks GU Withdrawal From Fair Labor Association

By Anne Rittman Hoya Staff Writer

The Georgetown Solidarity Committee put the sweatshop labor issue back onto the desk of University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., Tuesday with a letter outlining five demands made by the group. The letter was issued after O’Donovan rejected the Licensing Implementation Committee’s recommendation that O’Donovan remove Georgetown from the Fair Labor Association last December.

Topping the list of concerns was a request to O’Donovan to remove Georgetown from the FLA until the association “adopts measures that satisfy the principles set forth in the May 1999 LIC resolution.” If Georgetown were to withdraw from the FLA, it would join the other major universities that have chosen to pursue other avenues, including the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin. Georgetown joined the FLA in May 1999.

The letter also advocated that Georgetown join the Workers Rights Consortium, a non-profit organization that supports and verifies licensee compliance with codes of conduct developed by colleges and universities to ensure goods are produced under conditions respectful to the basic rights of workers.

According to the letter, “The majority opinion of the LIC . concurs. It is beyond dispute that, structurally speaking, universities have more power and more flexibilities within the WRC than in the FLA .”

The difference between the approaches of the FLA and the WRC, are, according to Laura McSpedon (COL ’00), former president of GSC “boardrooms versus a grassroots effort.”

“We have maintained that the FLA is inadequate and ineffective,” said McSpedon. “Its measures fall short of what it will take to clean up the factories where our apparel is produced. We have criticized the FLA since we joined in May . we have tried to push the issue through the LIC and advocate the WRC.”

The letter said that in spite of last February’s administration-student resolution, the agreement that Georgetown would “appraise the Collegiate Licensing Company’s progress on living wage, full disclosure, universal compliance and independent monitoring” has not been fulfilled.

According to the letter, “To date, the CLC [Collegiate Licensing Company] has taken no further steps toward disclosure as an institutional/universal policy. There has been no formal study at the CLC level of measuring and implementing a living wage. The CLC Code of Conduct retains the flaws that the university community recognized over a year ago. In short, there is more than enough evidence that the CLC has not made ‘substantial progress’ in the past year.”

Georgetown, as well as other major universities, uses the CLC as an intermediary between the university and clothing manufacturers who produce university apparel. The CLC’s Code of Conduct was created after students, human rights activists and universities expressed concern about the working conditions and labor violations in factories with CLC contracts.

The letter further demanded, in accordance with the February compromise, that “Licensees that have not complied with the disclosure policy, even after repeated notices from the CLC, should have their contracts terminated as quickly as possible.”

“This was part of the agreement to the sit-in,” said Andrew ilmore (SFS ’01), chief organizer of the GSC. “As of Jan. 1, 2000, if the CLC did not meet the demands, we would terminate the contract. We are pretty confident that administration will work with us on this. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the university.”

Finally, the letter expressed dismay at the university’s lack of initiative in attempting to stimulate discussion on the issues related to workers’ rights, Third World development and living wages. Instead of the university taking responsibilities to provide forums for discussion, the letter said the responsibility “has fallen to the Solidarity Committee, which lacks the university’s resources and institutional prestige.”

Recently, the GSC has brought two influential speakers to campus, the Rev. David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Chie Abad, a former Saipan sweatshop worker. “The university committed to creating a climate of dialogue, but really, that responsibility has fallen to the GSC. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the fact remains that the university did commit resources. [The effort] has been all Solidarity Committee, and we end up having to scramble to raise money,” said McSpedon.

“The university brought one speaker,” said Milmore. “[GSC] is working with a $300 budget. The university must help to inform [the community]. The administration really dropped the ball.”

According to McSpedon, the GSC has been pushing hard on the first two demands all year. “The other demands stem from the sit-in,” she explained. “The university made what is basically a legally binding commitment. However, there have been no steps taken. Students must push the issue, we must keep raising the issue or it will be forgotten. For instance, Hasbro will not disclose, but no steps were taken to break our contract with them.”

O’Donovan’s meeting with the LIC will satisfy the GSC if he “were to say, leave the FLA and join the WRC. It would be an indication of a move in a positive direction. Anything short of that is not really progress. Just leaving the FLA would be a baby step,” McSpedon said. The LIC voted to advise O’Donovan to leave the FLA in November. “We’ve gone from November to March,” said cSpedon. “The administration is dragging their feet.”

The GSC letter was accompanied by an additional letter signed by 11 student campus leaders. It supported the demands made by GSC and emphasized that students should be included in the decision-making process. It asked “that [O’Donovan] include students in [the] decision making process. This past year’s events have shown how hard it can be to deal with crisis when Georgetown is divided and how much the university benefits when its constituents act in concert. We wish to engage you in a constructive dialogue on how Georgetown can best serve its community and be a leader in the arena of justice.”

“You always hear about the importance of democracy in the decision-making process at Georgetown,” said Milmore. “Almost two-thirds of the LIC voted to join the WRC. This shows a preponderant opinion. If [O’Donovan] brushes this aside, it shows he doesn’t really care about input; he just cares about politics.”

GSC is planning to hold a rally on Tuesday, regardless of O’Donovan’s decision. “We will either be holding a celebration or making further demands,” said McSpedon. GSC has requested a meeting with O’Donovan before he discusses the situation with the LIC, either before Monday or at 8 a.m. one hour and 45 minutes before O’Donovan is scheduled to meet with the LIC.

“I will wake up at 6 a.m. and have Sunday brunch [with O’Donovan],” said Milmore. “Dean [of Students James A.] Donahue requested a meeting with us, but at this point, we need to talk to the decision maker.”

The LIC is an 11-member committee composed of four students, three administrators and four faculty members and was founded in the wake of last February’s 85-hour sit-in in O’Donovan’s office.

Related Links

 365 Days Later, Revisiting 85 Hours (Feb. 8, 2000)

 Sweatshop Battle Working Overtime (Feb. 8, 2000)

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